UNDER WAY - Adventurers, drunks and a solid staff

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Soundings is the kind of magazine you can enjoy either from stem to stern or vice versa. If you start at the “square end,” the first thing you encounter each month is Passages, our glimpse of bygone days that consists of a photograph and short, evocative essay by contributing writer Steve Knauth.

This month Steve recounts one of the final chapters of Glenesslin, a Liverpool square-rigger of some note that was run up on the rocks in broad daylight by a mostly drunken crew and a captain later found to be “grossly negligent.”

In the category of the more things change the more they stay the same, I point you to a short news account on Page 17 concerning a Greek master who pleaded guilty to being drunk this past fall while skippering a 580-foot freighter off Louisiana. The Coast Guard commanding officer and captain of the Port of New Orleans said it was “inconceivable” that a master charged with the safety of a large commercial vessel and crew would allow himself to become intoxicated.

Next month we’ll bring you a report on the latest Coast Guard accident statistics, which show, among other things, that alcohol was a factor in about one-third of all recreational-boat deaths. You’d think that after all this time we would have learned a thing or two.

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David Sinnett-Jones was a remarkable individual. The bearded Welshman was an indomitable adventurer — a solo circumnavigator, race-car driver, dairy farmer, and cancer survivor whom doctors didn’t give much chance of living 25 years ago when he was diagnosed with the disease. He lost a lung and part of his heart wall to cancer, but Sinnett-Jones proved the medical experts wrong and underwent a startling recovery.

After teaching himself to sail at age 50, he embarked on a number of noteworthy passages, including a solo voyage around the world in a replica of Joshua Slocum’s Spray. Slocum himself was 51 in 1895 when he set off on his historic three-year, 46,000-mile journey on board the 36-foot North Sea fisherman with a dollar and a half in his pocket, becoming the first man to sail around the world alone. In many ways, Sinnett-Jones embodied the same indefatigable spirit that his sailing mentor displayed a century earlier.

“Live every moment of every day,” Sinnett-Jones used to say. We could all take away something from his relentless embrace of life.

David Sinnett-Jones died in November at the age of 74. You’ll find an account of his life on Page 14 by senior writer Jim Flannery.

In northern climes, most of our boats are slumbering on the hard while we knock around the house waiting for spring. But in Woods Hole, Mass., George Cadwalader and his lobster boat, Frannie Cahoon, are hard at work.

I called George recently to see if he would write a piece for us about what it’s like to work on the water in winter. He said he had just the story, one he had written a number of years back for a boating magazine that later went out of business. We are reprinting George’s story starting on Page 28 in this issue. A 1961 Yale graduate and a former marine who served (and was wounded) in Vietnam, Cadwalader skillfully uses his prose to put you on board his Beals Island lobster boat on a cold day in January.

The photos that accompany the piece were taken by Maine photographer Neal Parent and appear in his lovely book “Focused on the Coast” (WoodenBoat Publications, $35, 2002), which contains 135 black-and-white images.

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The first part of our electronics special for 2005 starts on Page 22, where George Sass Sr. describes the electronics he chose in preparing his Thomas Point 43 for an 8,000-mile voyage of the Great Loop and the Bahamas.

The second installment next month will include a story on the new generation of VHF radios, an argument for why sonar may be the most important piece of electronics since World War II, the latest in charting software, and more. We also will have a follow-up on a story that broke just as this issue was getting ready to ship to the printer. The White House reported that President Bush has instructed the Defense and Homeland Security departments to develop plans for temporarily shutting down or jamming the network of GPS satellites in the event of a national crisis. Stay tuned for more on that subject.

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In November Soundings won a national magazine award for editorial excellence in the Folio Editorial Excellence competition, known as the Eddies. Magazines are graded by a panel of judges in five areas, from creativity and originality to writing and reporting.

A wide range of quality magazines compete each year, including small niche publications and such general interest titles as Time and Newsweek. Soundings entered the Consumer Sports category and won the bronze prize.

I want to thank all the staff and freelancers who each month work diligently to produce this distinctive boating periodical. And I want to thank you, the reader, for your continued support. This award belongs to you, as well.